Lessons Learned from Starting a New Channel Role During a Pandemic

Many people have been dealing with a multitude of issues over the past few months. While few may want to read in-depth about all the COVID-19 pandemic-related problems MSPs are still dealing with, and may face for months to come, things have been a little quieter on the vendor side of the channel.

Matt Scully, channel chief, Mailprotector
Matt Scully, channel chief, Mailprotector

Most are dealing with similar quarantine issues. From equipping and moving non-essential employees to WFH environments to establishing new lines of communications for business partners, vendors are now making additional adjustments and getting their teams accustomed to the new work norms. We truly are all in this together.

With that in mind, our team thought it would be fun to share a glimpse behind the scenes during the pandemic from the perspective of a new channel chief, Mailprotector’s Matt Scully. A little more than a month into his new role, Scully discusses the hiring and onboarding process in a virtual world, as well as ways MSPs can adapt in the future.

Mailprotector: What is it like to take on an exciting new role during a pandemic?

Scully: It was a surprisingly positive experience. If an employer truly cares, they go out of their way to put you in a good situation, though the interview process was a little bit different. We had a couple of calls each week and basically created a business plan before I met with the leadership team via Zoom to see if we were a good match. And it was.

I never met the CEO until I flew down to Greenville, which would have been strange during regular times. That was a different dynamic for a job interview. When he made a formal job offer, there was no handshake, though that would have been in order. The social cues in a virtual setting are different from what they were in the past. Those are the types of things you think of when interviewing for a job during a pandemic.

A handshake is a two-way communication used to seal business deals. So, what do you do when social distancing is the norm, and shaking hands is highly discouraged? I think we just moved on and started discussing new possibilities for the Mailprotector channel program.

Mailprotector: How was the new employee onboarding experience?

Scully: In this case, I decided to travel down to Greenville to meet the team in person, and, unsurprisingly, the trip went smoothly, and everything worked out fine. My goal was to set expectations and identify the next steps for the program while I was in town. While I had a good feel for what my job as the channel chief would be like, it was important for me to sit down with the management team to align plans. Believe it or not, we were on the same page on at least four of six points, and pretty close on the other two. While we have the same expectations for our partner program, it was helpful to sit down and discuss our product roadmap and new options for our MSP community.

Mailprotector: As a new channel chief amid a pandemic, what do you see as the biggest challenge?

Scully: Resetting our plan to address the current and future business environment. I joined Mailprotector in June, and the management team typically decides on activities in October or November of the previous year, but, with the pandemic essentially canceling all live events, we are resetting our priorities to align with the current needs of our partners. That means looking at the next six months and assessing any previous commitments. In a normal year, our 2020 agenda would already beset, and in many respects, it was, with a significant number of roadshows and channel activities in 2020. Most of that went out the window with the pandemic.

Events and onsite visits are either going virtual or put off until social distancing, masks, and other precautions are no longer needed. Our team is concentrating even more attention on our partner community and asking MSPs about the types of support and materials they need to get through this and how Mailprotector can help. What can we do differently? Our goal is to stay closely connected to our MSP partners and provide “air and ground support” whenever needed.

Mailprotector: How does losing the ability to meet face-to-face, change your channel approach?

Scully: I know this is cliché, but you have to think out of the box more today than ever before. Channel events and onsite visits are not a great option, so educational activities and communications will likely remain virtual for quite some time. Phone calls and Zoom meetings are temporarily replacing live interactions, and we continue to enhance our offerings and expand our team so our partners can address the issues they and their clients are facing during the pandemic.

Mailprotector: What has been the most rewarding part of your job so far?

Scully: Evaluating our technology stack. I knew, from afar, what Mailprotector does, but sitting down with our CTO and learning about all the current and future functionality of the platform was an illuminating experience. It made me realize that our biggest job right now is to get the solution into more MSPs’ hands.

Mailprotector: When we eventually get the clear to proceed with our lives without masks or social distancing, what work objective you plan to tackle?

Scully: Well, the first thing we will do is evaluate our virtual activities as well as in-person activities from the past and identify the mix of channel activities that will best meet our partners' needs. Many positives are coming from our online efforts, so we have no plans to abandon those platforms that spur MSP engagement and provide them more flexibility. Everyone talks about getting back to normal. No one knows what that looks like for MSPs or their customers. Will half the people work from home while the rest continue to operate from a traditional office or brick-and-mortar location? I don't know. However, we can combine some elements of both the virtual and live work environments in our plans to give everyone more flexibility.

We want to help our MSP partners prepare for that new norm, to feel comfortable selling their solution, and we can provide different modules and create new enablement programs to help them in that mission. Some of their employees may want to get out of the office and travel, while others may need more virtual options, including videos and online training resources, to best support their clients. The vendor community must consider all the circumstances their partners face today and, whenever possible, change their programs to address the evolving needs of tech workers and end-users.

Mailprotector: From a personal side, what one thing would you like to do after the pandemic restrictions go away?

Scully: I seriously need to learn third-grade math. My wife runs an assisted living facility, so she has not had a day off in months, so I was in charge of reviewing homework and answering questions. Of course, I ended up calling the teacher at nine o'clock at night and asking her to explain third-grade math. My wife and I want to give our three kids a sense of normalcy and enjoy their childhood. So, after I finished my work, I tried to help them, and that was not as easy as it sounded.

Mailprotector: What are your other current priorities for Mailprotector?

Scully: My top goal is to be completely available for our MSPs, to be a channel resource, and to help our partners find what they need when they need it. Whether that includes co-hosting creative webinars and demos or just jumping on a call to assist with their sales efforts, MSP support is our number one priority. With everything that has happened in 2020, ITSPs are focusing on restoring and growing their businesses, and our job is to clear the path by offering the programs, solutions, and support they need. Mailprotector has been building momentum over the past several years, and we want to extend that positive trend in our partner community. My job as the new channel chief is to clear the obstacles so MSPs can accomplish their goals in 2020 and beyond.

Matt Scully is channel chief at Mailprotector. Read more guest blogs from Mailprotector here.